BEIJING, (Xinhua) -- Domestic Chinese carmakers are joining with tech-savvy companies to develop Internet-enabled cars in the pursuit of fresh momentum for the auto industry, media reports said.
Leading car company SAIC Motor and Alibaba Group, an e-commerce giant, has been developing an Internet-enabled car featuring Alibaba's Yun operating system and Aliyun cloud computing services, according to a report from Yicai.com on Thursday.
The two companies will invest 1 billion yuan (more than 160 million U.S. dollars) to establish an "Internet car fund" to encourage more investors to back the sector.
Another carmaker, BAIC Motor has cooperated with Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp., an online entertainment company, on a similar program, planning to get the first model demonstrated at the Beijing car exhibition in 2016.
Baidu, China's largest search engine provider, is also interested in the business, focusing on self-driving technology.
Although their models have yet to roll out from assembly lines, stocks of some companies involved have already begun rising.
On Thursday, bucking an across-the-board losing trend, Leshi's shares traded on Shenzhen bourse surged over 6 percent to close at 145.68 yuan per share, while Navinfo Co., an auto navigation equipment producer, jumped 3.71 percent to finish at nearly 40 yuan per share.
China remained the world's biggest auto market with car sales expanding to 23.49 million units in 2014, but growth has started to slow and the development on intelligent cars is just unfolding.
However, a sweeping wave of old industries getting connected with the Internet has emerged as a fresh opportunity.
At this year's annual parliamentary sessions, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang challenged traditional sectors to embrace the Internet and cloud computing, among other digital technologies, to boost efficiency and sophistication in a grand vision called "Internet Plus".
The "Internet Plus" action plan, unveiled in the government work report, aims to integrate Internet technologies with modern manufacturing.
The Internet will reshape the auto industrial chain, spawning a huge market valued at 4 to 6 trillion yuan and creating a network connecting automobiles to become the third largest after those of computers and mobile phones, a report of CITIC Securities said.
Li Shufu, chairman of Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, a leading private carmaker, said given the rapid development of the Internet the competition of smart vehicles will drive into the spotlight in the future and more digital technologies are urgently needed.
However, experts said the domestic companies still lag behind in terms of car manufacturing, such as core technology and key components, which require more R&D efforts.